Ace columnist Obi Nwakanma really took me back to the good old days with his piece: The East has got sounds. I did not know there was music in his pen.
That is also why Benson Idonije remains a must read. As we talk about creating wealth beyond oil and federal allocation from Abuja, our leaders must really look the way of entertainment.
And I believe Governor Rochas Okorocha has all it takes to turn Owerri to the music capital of Nigeria. That town is unique in so many ways. It is difficult to have a dull moment in the Imo State capital. Those who know it have nothing to hide.
If you love life and you have never passed a night in Owerri, I am sorry to say it, you are not living. Music and Owerri go together. I just cannot say how it all started but the truth is that many great musicians have something to do with that senatorial zone.
Many of us remember Israel Nwoba Njemanze, the Golden Voice who was murdered in Lagos on the 1950s.
Herbert Udemba took the country by storm with his track Azikiwe Bonsue which was recently adapted by Omawunmi.
It took my friend Stanley Nkwazema for the Waffi girl to honour the old man who passed away not long ago.
Rex Jim Lawson had something to do with Owerri. Unconfirmed reports say his mother hailed from there. You just have to listen to his hit track Adaure to appreciate the Owerri connection.
The Ijaw man did most songs in his language but Adaure which is Igbo has refused to die.
Flavour has brought it to the fore . Owerri is the home of Joe Nez, the African Don Williams. That area brought out Celestine Obiakor, Douglas Ederi Olariche, The Peacocks led by Raph Amarabem before Dan Orji broke away to form Skylarks.
It is the home of the Oriental Brothers of Godwin Kabaka Opara, Sir Warrior Obinna, Dan Satch Opara, Ichita, Aquila.
The super producer Ndaa Pal Akalonu has Owerri blood in his veins and used it to promote the best from the East. Soki Hale is an Owerri man too. If you go the way of tradition, there is no forgetting Maria Egu and her Nwokorogbo girls.
Yes, you cannot talk about Owerri if you leave out the women. President Olusegun Obasanjo knows what I am talking about. He has in –laws in Owerri and I am sure he could also be a landlord.
After all, his Army buddy, Patrick Chiedu Amadi of Uratta took him round town. Ajie Ukpabi Asika also found love in Egbu, thanks to Lady Chinyere. So you see where Obi Asika and Naeto C are coming from. Cousins they are. Mrs Kema Chikwe is an Ejiogu just like Asika’s wife, Obi’s mom. Like they say, Owere wu oke mba (Owerri is a great land).
Check out the Lagos group, there is the Owerri touch. When Berkeley Jones, Laolu Akins and Mike Odumosu formed the pop group BLO in the 1970s, many did not know that the B of the BLO was an Ike from Mbieri, Owerri.
And thanks to his Owerri sense, when Odumosu moved over to London to join Osibisa, another O was found in soldier man Biddy O’Wright, to keep it BLOing. Ozzidi King Sony Okosun was from Esanland in Edo State.
The track that made him popular : Help also had the Owerri touch, not just because he spoke fluent Igbo. The sweet voice behind him was his wife Kechi. When St. Finbarr’s College , Lagos school boys Ofege hit the scene in the 1970s, you could not miss the Owerri flavour. Melvin Noks was indeed Ukachi, the lead vocalist.
He turned the entertainment industry agog with his pals: Paul Alade, Mike Meme, Soga Benson, Felix Inneh, Dapo Olumide and Felix Ijeh.
The Anokwuru in the group moved over to Government College Owerri to continue with his education. I spent time in Owerri as a student and I should say it was interesting.
All nights were busy. I think the most popular hotel then was Chaseside. It was the home of the group One World, led by Sammy Mathews. One other popular member of the band was Gab Zani [Ozoani]. One World ruled Owerri.
At the end of the war, many musicians settled in Owerri. I guess it began with Bob Miga[Agim] and the Strangers.
One funny part of the war was that soldiers loved to party. The Biafrans had Hykkers made up of such names as Jeff Umeofia, Pat Finn Okonjo, Jeff Afam, Emile Lawson and Miga. While the rest moved on at the end of the crisis, Bob Miga settled in Owerri to form The Strangers.
I must confess that their single Love Rock is one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard. Sammy Mathews and others left Strangers to form One World. The big and small groups flocked to Owerri, from all over the country.
Funkees (Jake Solo, Harry Mosco, Mohammed Ahidjo, Dany Heibs), Aktion (Lemmy Faith Essien Akpabio), Apostles (Walton Arungwa, Chyke Fusion), Wings (Spud Nathan Udensi, Manford Best), Doves, Founders 15, Joni Haastrup’s Mono Mono, they were alive .
Dan Ian Mbaezue of Wrinkers Experience had become a landlord.
There were Stoneface Iwuagwu, Joe Fabro, Lasbrey Ojukwu (Semi colon) and in and out Geraldo Pino.
Much later came the sensation of the time: Sweet Breeze (Dallas King Anyanwu, Jackie Moore Anyaora, Bazzy Cole Akalonu, Vin Ikeotuonye, Nestor Philips). I would like Rochas to get something out of the entertainment side of Owerri.
I understand there are so many willing hands to help drive this project.
Imo needs money and we have to look beyond agriculture and oil. Mr. Governor knows much about nite life.
Owerri has more hotels than any other town in Africa.You wonder why people leave Lagos and Abuja to eat Ndaa Letti’s rice and beans or why Madam Pepsi still bubbles at night.
Bring them on. Sony Bobo, Eze Bongo, Shama Melody, Ababa Nna, Bogar Bongo, Koko Nwa Jesus, Eligwe Ugorji, Obareze, Too Nwajimaima, King Owigiri, Saro Wiwa and more.
Start a Bongo Carnival and see money entering Douglas House.